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Types of drugs: know their characteristics and effects

Types of drugs: know their characteristics and effects

August 11, 2022

Despite the fact that drug use is usually associated with younger people, psychoactive substances are consumed by people of very different profiles and of different ages .

The uses that are made of the different types of drugs are very varied, and they tell us about the versatility of this class of substances. Since the psychoactive substances consumed millennia ago synthetic drugs of the contemporary era, the wide repertoire of effects of drugs has made them used in many contexts.

A little history about drugs

Man, since its inception, has always consumed substances that have affected his nervous system. In fact, there is knowledge that around the year 3000 a.C. Some opiates were already used.


In addition, there are data that show that by that time, in Asia, hemp was already consumed. In America, coca leaves were used as an analgesic and, in that same continent, the Aztecs made use of some mushrooms such as peyote. Some types of hallucinogenic drugs have also been used in rituals linked to shamanism and polytheistic religions, so that it was interpreted that hallucinations were in fact forms in which alternative planes of existence became part of the environment that can be experienced.

Drugs: different uses and effects

The drug is a natural or artificial substance that alters physical performance, perception, mood and behavior of the individual who consumes it. These effects on people can be very varied, and these substances can have different uses, which means that there are different types of drugs. Surely we have all heard of LSD or cocaine, drugs with very different effects, but both widely consumed and known for decades.


Nowadays, new drugs have gained popularity and some have jumped to the media , despite being types of drugs for recreational use, produce effects as peculiar as dangerous: bath salts, known as cannibal drug, or Flakka, also called "Hulk drug" are some examples.

There are even drugs that have different functions, such as GHB. This drug, which is used as a medication for the treatment of narcolepsy (under the trade name of XYREM), also has a recreational use and, incredible as it may seem, is used by rapists to neutralize their victims, just like the Burundanga. This is so because depending on the context in which the drugs are used they may have different uses ; After all, these types of substances have not only one concrete effect, but several.


If you still do not know these drugs, you better read the following articles:

  • "GHB": the drug used by rapists to neutralize their victims
  • Burundanga, the drug capable of nullifying your will

The difference between drug, drug, active principle and medication

In the specialized literature it is possible that we find the word drug and drug used interchangeably. Although these terms can be confusing, it is even worse when we add the concepts of active principle or medicine. You may find different explanations of these terms in different magazines (even specialized), but in this article we have focused on the explanation of the World Health Organization (WHO)

The word drug It refers to any chemical substance that is capable of altering consciousness, perception, mood and behavior. The conditions that must be given for a substance to be classified as a drug are the following:

  • When these substances are introduced into the body modify one or more psychic functions (for example, feeling of euphoria).
  • They cause the person who consumes it to want to repeat its use , because they have a powerful effect on the cerebral region of the reinforcement.
  • When the individual stops taking it, he may feel great discomfort .
  • They do not have medical application , and if they have it, they can be used for non-therapeutic purposes.

While some authors use the term drug to refer to any drug, others also use it to refer to medications. The medicine, unlike drugs, it does have a therapeutic use .

The active principle make reference to the chemical that produces the effect on the organism . In the case of the ecstasy drug, the active substance would be the chemical MDMA. There are medications that combine different active ingredients and, sometimes, there may be medications that use even excipients.

How drugs are classified

The types of drugs can be classified in different ways: according to whether they are legal or illegal, according to their routes of use, according to their effects on the nervous system. Let's see how they are classified to know a little better the different types of psychoactive substances .

Legal or illegal drugs

The term legal drug or illegal it has to do with the legislation of the country where the substance is consumed. The term illegal refers to the fact that its use is not allowed by the legislation of that country. And although the own consumption of some illegal substance sometimes is allowed, the sale is punished with harsh administrative and / or penal sanctions.

The legal drugs yes they are allowed, and there is usually an economic purpose for its use . For example, taxes collected with tobacco or alcohol.

It may happen that the legislation of a country allows the consumption and sale of a drug that in another country is prohibited, as in the case of marijuana, which is allowed in the Netherlands but not in Spain.

Classification according to your route of consumption

Since the variety of drugs is very broad, according to their route of consumption, they can be classified in different ways:

  • Smoked : hashish, marijuana, heroin, "crack"
  • Orally : synthetic drugs, alcohol
  • Inspired : cocaine, speed (amphetamine sulfate)
  • Inhaled : glue
  • Injected heroin

Classification according to its effect on the nervous system

Drugs can also be classified according to their effect on the nervous system:

Depressants of the nervous system

  • Alcohol
  • Hypnotics: sleeping pills and barbiturates
  • Anxiolytics: benzodiazepines
  • Opiates: heroin, morphine, codeine and methadone
  • Tranquilizers
  • Inhalants

Stimulants of the nervous system

  • Amphetamines
  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine and other derivatives
  • Xanthines: theobromine caffeine

Psychedelic or disturbing substances

  • Hallucinogens: LSD, mescaline ...
  • Cannabinoids: hashish, marijuana ...
  • Ecstasy, ketamine

Some considerations on the ways of consumption

The faster the substance consumed passes to the blood, the faster and more intense the effects are usually. However, this does not mean that the types of drugs that are injected have worse effects than the rest; It must be remembered that some may be beneficial in clinical settings controlled by doctors.

About its effects

Finally, we must bear in mind that although the mechanisms of action of many types of drugs are known in an approximate way and their consumption can be associated with the appearance of very relevant symptoms that worsen the quality of life of people, it is also true that In practice it is difficult to determine if a certain psychological or neurological phenomenon is caused only by the administration of these substances.

After all, it is very common that those who consume drugs have a history of mental disorders (favored by a mixture of genetic predispositions and contextual factors), so in many cases, what happens after consumption is multicasual, fruit of those latent problems in interaction with the neurobiological changes produced in the nervous system after introducing a certain component in the body.

Bibliographic references:

  • Crocq M.A. (June 2003). "Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and mental disorders". Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 5 (2): pp. 175-185.
  • Bloomquist, E. (1971). Marijuana: The Second Trip. California: Glencoe.
  • Lingeman, R. R. (1974). Drugs from A-Z: A Dictionary. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Top 10 Drugs and their Effects (August 2022).


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